Vegan Wonder

Elevate Your Style with Ethical and Vegan-Friendly Jewelry Options

You know the drill: When it comes to fashion, be kind, rewind (or recycle, if you will). And that includes your jewelry box. Because even though that glittering bauble may have you feeling like a million bucks, chances are it comes at a cost to the environment and to the people working in the mines.

The Case for Ethical and Vegan-Friendly Jewelry

It turns out, there are far more stylish, sustainable and compassionate options out there. Enter: ethical and vegan-friendly jewelry.

What Makes Jewelry Ethical?

When most people think of the jewelry industry, they don’t often consider the environmental impact of mining and manufacturing precious metals and gems, or the human rights violations that can occur in gem mines. But these are very real issues.

According to the United Nations, the production of gold, silver, platinum and diamonds can result in massive water pollution and habitat destruction, while also releasing dangerous chemicals into the air. And that’s just the beginning.

The majority of gemstones and gold are extracted in developing countries, where workers are often subjected to poor working conditions and meager wages. In some cases, children are even forced to work in mines.

There are also ethical concerns around the use of real fur and leather in jewelry—though this is more commonly seen in accessories like collars and cuffs, it’s worth noting.

Fortunately, the demand for ethical jewelry has grown in recent years, with consumers demanding more transparency and accountability from brands.

What Makes Jewelry Vegan?

On the other hand, there’s also a growing market for vegan jewelry. While ethical jewelry is more about the sourcing and production methods, vegan jewelry is specifically made without animal products.

That means no real leather, furs, pearls (which are made from tiny living creatures called mollusks) or even beeswax. Instead, you’ll find synthetic alternatives made from materials like glass, ceramic, silicone, wood, cork, bamboo and more.

The rise of vegan jewelry has been fueled in part by the growing popularity of plant-based diets and ethical living, but also by the fact that vegan jewelry is often more affordable and accessible.

As with any product category, however, it’s important to do your research and make sure the brand you’re supporting isn’t greenwashing (i.e., lying about their sustainability efforts).

How to Shop for Ethical and Vegan-Friendly Jewelry

When it comes to ethical jewelry, there are several approaches brands can take. Some use 100% recycled and reclaimed metals (which we’ll dig into next), while others prioritize fair trade and sustainable sourcing of conflict-free gems and precious metals. Some do both.

A few brands leading the way in recycled metal jewelry include: Mateo New York, which uses 100% recycled gold and platinum; Jessica Rey, which uses recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds; and Carats & Cake, which uses recycled gold, platinum and silver.

Another trend in the jewelry world is lab-grown diamonds and gemstones, which we’ll talk about more below. For now, just know that these are chemically identical to their naturally-occurring counterparts, but are grown in a lab rather than extracted from the earth.

Ethical and Sustainable Gemstones

When it comes to gems, a lot of the issues stem from unethical mining practices. That’s why it’s important to support ethical and environmentally-conscious sources for your gems.

For example, Brilliant Earth works directly with artisanal miners and small-scale mines to source gems ethically, while also prioritizing recycled metals and renewable energy in their manufacturing process. They also have a comprehensive guide on responsible gemstone mining on their site.

Another option is Annie Costello Designs, which uses ethically-sourced gemstones like morganite, which is mined in the US; aquamarine, which is ethically sourced in Brazil; and lab-grown diamonds.

Of course, the best way to reduce your impact on the environment through jewelry is to simply consume less of it. That means opting for heirloom pieces, buying vintage, or repurposing jewelry you already own.

How to Wear Ethical and Vegan Jewelry

Now, let’s talk about how to wear all this ethical and vegan jewelry you’re going to buy. (Okay, and the jewelry you already have, too.)

When it comes to ethically-sourced and sustainable jewelry, there are no hard and fast rules—but there are some general guidelines you can follow to make sure your pieces are getting the spotlight they deserve. (Otherwise, what’s the point?)

One option is to mix and match your ethical and sustainable jewelry with the rest of your wardrobe. That means wearing that statement necklace with your T-shirt and jeans, or stacking those bangles with your favorite summer dress.

Another option is to go big—really big. Because when you’re investing in ethical and sustainable jewelry, you’re not just getting a beautiful piece of jewelry—you’re also making a statement about the kind of world you want to live in. So go on, make a scene.

Caring for Your Ethical and Vegan Jewelry

Now, about that statement necklace: To make sure it stays looking as beautiful as the day you bought it, you’ll need to take good care of it. (Besides, you’re going to want to wear it forever.)

The best way to clean most types of jewelry (excluding pearls, which should be cleaned by a professional) is with warm water and a mild detergent. Gently rub the piece with a soft toothbrush, then dry with a clean cloth.

For more delicate pieces, you can also use a dry-cleaning cloth or a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth.

When storing your jewelry, it’s important to keep it away from direct sunlight and heat, as both can damage the materials over time. (This goes for your shoes and handbags, too.)

A lot of people like to store their jewelry in fabric-lined boxes or jewelry cases, while others prefer to string their necklaces and bracelets together on a felt or velvet-lined board. However you do it, just make sure your jewelry is protected from dust and scratches.

Of course, there’s no one “right” way to wear or care for ethical and vegan jewelry—as with anything in life, it’s up to you to decide what feels good and looks good. And if that means you want to wear your favorite necklace every day for the rest of your life? We won’t judge.